Featured Fiction Debut: Tyler Wilborn

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(A World of Their Own)

Tyler Wilborn

Schneider,

I think it should only be a few more days now – there isn’t any reason I would refuse this! And wow, isn’t it just a golden opportunity? What a good omen! I don’t even understand why, but it seems like this is from another world (i.e. too good to be true!), and it just doesn’t seem to make sense. Like, one day I’m in here for the usual, and the next day I’m being asked to be a support of this very country (as they say, for the sake of silicon domes!). The country that most people would say is “not to be my friend.” Ha! Ironic, isn’t it? There are some things in life that you can’t predict. You know that, though, don’t you? It really is like that. Life is. It makes things so much more interesting when you can just say “well, if it happens, it happens,” and there’s not much more to it. Really, there’s not! There’s good omens (like what is happening right now!) and bad omens, and nothing else you can do. And maybe that’s just what you should do – just take it all as it goes and comes. You’ve been my best friend in and out of prison (this damned institution – isn’t it?! I say that nicely, lovingly, as they say ha ha!), but it’s time for me to be a best friend to you and say “lighten up, big fella, things are going to turn up!” Because they do, they just do, and then you learn to understand that the bright side of the coin is always ready to show. I came up with that today – I did, I was flipping a coin in my cell and it landed right on heads – and then, right away (right away!) they came knocking. They said “hey you” (me ­– and I really had just flipped it!) “you want to get out of here? Sign this.” So what did I do? Did I sit back and put my sleeping glasses back on and go back to bed? Of course not! I looked at my coin and looked at the guards in their silicon suits and I took that pen and signed. And then they said to pack up because I’m leaving in four days. Four days! All because I flipped a coin and said “you know what? I’m going to do this!” And here I am. Ready to serve my country in the greatest way possible: for the glory and triumph of science. Science! And this is big, I can feel it (I can – ha!). It’s bigger than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes – bigger than the war, than the atmosphere solution – bigger than all of that! And I am a part of it. It feels good – to be a part of it and the bigness of it all. So here I am – maybe this will be the last letter I sign, until I am out and new and improved (greatly improved – maybe you will not even recognize me and I will have to tap you on the shoulder and say a code that only we knew, at which point you would say wow how much I’ve changed (taller? Stronger? Any number of things?) and we would go back to talking about the days when I was stuck in a containment zone for violating the maxim of respect in stealing someone’s water share (but how much that matters now, now that I am on my way to greatness)). We should come up with a code, so here it is: lithium carbonate is my favorite food (it’s really happening!). I will remember that, seeing as my improvements for science will probably at least involve a very good memory (maybe even I will be able to remember things I haven’t remembered for years?).

But my time is here – so, best friend, to you I say goodbye until I see the other side (ha! Yes – the other side).

For science (greatness!),

– Jonathan Patrick McPherson (here it is, my last signature before it is maybe worth something – money? Millions, even, all because I chose to see the shiny half of the coin?)

*

Schneider,

Wouldn’t you know they’ve given me one last “contact” before I head in for the treatment! It really is nicer here than that old containment facility (again – that damned institution – ha!). It’s not necessarily what I expected, but isn’t everything just one big experience (it really is, and who are we to say anything but “hey, here it comes!” to it all)!? So here I am, ready to take on the world and science and all of my glory, and I even have my own room (even bigger than our sleeping pods at the factory – really!). They claim the treatment won’t be as “accurate” if I am allowed to interact with the “outside world” (ironic! Since our whole world is technically inside, but that is how it goes, isn’t it?!). Anyways, our code is still fresh in my mind, and I will make “mental notes” (as if there were any “notes” but mental ones in this world we live in!) until I am done serving our country for the glory of science – and to think how greatly improved I will be. Maybe even so improved that not a single person recognizes me? Then I will say to your surprise that lithium carbonate is my favorite food (because what else could we have eaten when we were so busily cutting and cleaning our very “friends” as they came across our assembly line?) and you will be more amazed than you’ve ever been? And already they are saying my time is up. Here I go, best friend, into the first treatment session. Greatness awaits (it really is waiting, just to be grabbed!).

– Jonathan Patrick McPherson (maybe my true last signature before greatness?)

*

Schneider,

Treatment not really going as planned – first few sessions have not seen many changes (but still, maybe greatness awaits!). They have injected me with “productivity module” and one other treatment they said to “equalize the effects.” Writing to you secretly because I want this to be documented for greatness’ sake but also as security – in case something happens to me. They do not know I am writing to you (ha! I have set up under my blanket in my bed – hiding from any and all cameras!). Sessions are strange. Treatment supposed to make factory “self-sufficient.” Yesterday tried to find out more about lab I am in, but could not. During first free time, I tried to look at the street signs – it seems I am on the corner of string street and Youngstown blvd. (for future reference). Also, tested fence for strength (in case of escape!). But now my meal is being sent through with my treatment.

Lithium carbonate is my favorite food. Lithium carbonate is my favorite food. Lithium carbonate is my favorite food.

-Jonathan Patrick McPherson

*

Schneider,

Even worse than the other day. Treatment not going as planned. Today received another injection. Immediately felt great (like “yes, this is it! It’s really happening!”) then received another injection and felt as though normal again – even worse, actually. More like “somewhat normal, somewhat not so good.” Not feeling greatness (I am still writing from under the blanket – now I know they are here – maybe even in the room with me!). Have found no escape from facility. Instead, I am taking “cautious” measures to ensure I do not forget the code. Have inscribed lithium carbonate is my favorite food onto my bed frame and several times into the walls.

I hear them.

-JPM

*

Schneider,

Food is gone. Pretending to be asleep while I write. They have asked me to start keeping journal entries of my sessions (they are suspicious!). I will write the code in every message (SECRETLY) so as to be “cautious” and not have them discover our contact. Lithium carbonate is my favorite food.

-JPM

*

Jon,

It’s been a while since I’ve heard from you. I went by your Birth House and your Controllers said they hadn’t heard from you in weeks? What the hell is that? You leave for a couple of days to a containment zone and all the sudden you don’t come back? If you are still there, I am writing to ask what the hold-up is. Unless they’ve changed the Maxim Punishment Index, you should be back and showing up for work at the factory. Look, Jon, if you’re up to some shit about trying to change the Maxims again, you’ve got to cut it out. I have covered for you every day at the factory this working block, but I don’t think I will be able to lock your sleeping pod much longer. Just get back soon.

Schneider

*

Schneider,

Not heard from you in a long time (I am writing from the blanket again – this time I am certain they have done something to listen?). Been keeping “mental notes,” though it is getting harder to remember which days I have told you (perhaps a side effect before I am able to remember perfectly which things have happened when and why and everything in between?). Lithium. Sessions are getting stranger, though I feel lately that I am on the verge (the verge! Like a cliff into glory and science – maybe soon my letters will start to become too advanced to be understood?). At first, treatment was bad (probably because I, being so small-minded, did not have capacity to understand it), but I have been having many good omens, and have been thinking about the shiny side of the coin to which I say “there it is! It will happen or not!” (like everything, and I do hope that you got my first letter so you know to “lighten up!” as they say all the time (ha!)). Yesterday I received a new injection of treatment which is now making me feel like I can do so much in so little time and almost have no need of sleep-hours or off-time (like I could work every station at once and still drain and skin?) and a NEW table in my room. Carbonate. I am picturing your face (clearly I can see it, all stumped and confused at how I managed to “get” this – ha ha a symptom of the treatment?) and it is true! A table just came in and now is mine it is all of it and that’s not even the biggest news! Is. On this table was a notebook and a pen to start writing my session notes in. Ha! How things change even in the course of three days (maybe, because of the treatment, three days actually is feeling like a week? It has been long, and maybe this is because brain is starting to understand everything as it is which is slow and so extremely detailed? If so – amazing!). My. It seems to me it has only been a short time since I was brought in (like a damn lab rat, of course – worse than the factory lab rats (ha! – worse than you, Schneider!)), but maybe now they are seeing me as the scientist? As the one whose notes are needed to understand all that is going on (perhaps because I already am changed (i.e. intellectually superior) or know much more than anyone else here or because I am progressing so quickly? If so – double amazing!). Favorite. They are still keeping a very close “eye” on me (of course, not under here!), but I am confident it is only because I am so close to the greatness side of things. The shiny side of the coin really is still shining, and it is strange here, but I am certainly not “done” yet, just like we’re never “done” at the factory, even when we were scraping away at the last bits of skin or sleeping away the minutes in our pods. I hear them coming now, but I write lingering on the greatness that awaits – !!

-JPM

*

Schneider,

Under the blanket. It is sleep hours (and “sleeping” I am – ha!). I have been having a mixture of bad omens and good omens. Have been keeping many “mental notes.” Am going to record them here, but I am going to have to be more discrete about the code. I only write “the code” this time because I fear they know it. Here is why: yesterday, I was having a free time out in the courtyard, and when I came back in heard one of the doctors say the word “Lexitrine” (as if he thought he could fool me at the point that the treatment is so advanced that I probably am already nearly a “genius?” NO!!). This is a bad omen. Lexitrine has same first letter as code, which makes me think that before I was in treatment I mistakenly wrote it somewhere they saw or that before I was “somewhat genius” I said it out loud (laughing to myself, as we always did at that damned factory of ours – in those damned hydroplastic suits “separating the good from the dead” – ha ha ha!)? If this happened, we are in danger (I would say grave danger, but would that not mean we were in even worse place than a grave – no! for I am still being made great in science – truly great, as we used to try to be at the factory too!). Is the factory what is keeping you from responding? Perhaps they are even making you clean double the bodies because I am gone (before being made a “somewhat genius” by a treatment that is now being recorded in notes for the benefit of science overall – maybe even the benefit of all humans?). If so, “lighten up, big fella!” as they say, because soon I suspect that I will be back and able to do all of the tasks including clean-up (make sure you don’t miss the lower intestine, “as they say” – ha ha!) in the amount of time that makes you think wow what a great worker I became only to realize that I am more than just a worker but also a “somewhat genius” (maybe not even “somewhat” by then, but an “actual” as if the actual genius in me always existed!”)?

Here comes my meal. LCIMFF.

-JPM

*

Jon,

What the hell is going on? I went by the containment zone and they said you were unavailable for visitation? It’s been two weeks, Jon. Yesterday at the factory they announced the introduction of some new system for working blocks – something about some new drug everyone’s supposed to take when they’re on? Does this have something to do with you? Look, I don’t know what this is but people are talking; did you try to escape? If so, what the hell? We both know what happened to the last worker who tried to break containment. Look, yesterday, they cleaned your sleeping pod. You know what this means, right? You’re almost out of a job, which means you’re almost out of time. Just get the hell out of the containment zone.

Schneider

*

Schneider,

Blanket. Things are getting worse (they can hear me, see me, probably even under here!). Treatment not showing signs of greatness, not even a “somewhat genius” greatness. Starting to feel tired – fog that comes and goes (fog that makes “genius” seem impossible!). “Mental notes” starting to become blur. Maybe factory is really very busy because I am not there? Have not heard from you. Maybe working blocks changed or too many dead this week to be able to have “off-time” outside of pods so my letter is still sitting at Birth House? Perhaps Controllers have considered it a “threat to the well-being of the state” and have erased it (if so – emergency!). Going to try to reach you some other way. LCIMFF.

-JPM

*

Jon,

I found your first letter. I went by your Birth House and your Controllers said they received word from you. They said you were “fine,” but that were stuck in the containment zone for violating another Maxim. I didn’t believe them. I had already used nearly all 24 of my off-hours, but I went back. I violated code (and got myself a week on draining duty – by the way, the blood, when you drain them, is getting worse. It’s almost red/black now. They say it’s from the atmosphere outside the domes, but it’s hard to believe that the skin is still able to be salvaged with the condition these ones are in.), but when I went back your Controllers were gone. I found your first letter. You idiot. I knew you weren’t in the Containment Zone and I knew you were into some shit that probably thought was a way out. I know cleaning bodies at the factory is bad and working all day at a conveyer belt is not necessarily “entertaining,” but this? Dammit, Jon. How the hell are you supposed to get out? What the hell are they doing to you? Things are going bad here. They’ve cleaned out your sleeping pod and the new guy just moved in. He’s a typical newbie. Nervous, and not used to the System. Yesterday his pod was locked five minutes past clock-in, and he lost a day of sleep hours and got placed on the skinning team for the next three working blocks. There’s been talk of cuts, Jon – the bad kind. People are getting restless, and if a riot happens I don’t want you to be stuck on the other side of the dome. You need to get back, and what’s this shit about a code?

Dammit, why is it always you?

     Schneider

*

Schneider,

Tried to contact you yesterday via letter to Birth House. Wrote “and Schneider, make sure you are “cleaning through and through” ha ha! Treatment making me feel sideways (i.e. sometimes like “somewhat genius” and sometimes like “small piece of shit”). Today I was able to work for nearly 16 hours straight on! After receiving “equalizer,” felt even worse than “small piece of shit.” Perhaps treatment not making “somewhat genius” out of anyone (maybe not even “genius” enough to do anything but work in that damned factory?)? If so – emergency! Cannot think about anything but fog; “mental notes” becoming (fog!) – I am even fearing that I am starting to forget code (in order to be “cautious” and avoid this, have scratched into walls again LCIMFF).

LCIMFF. LCIMFF. LCIMFF. LCIMFF. LCIMFF. LCIMFF. LCIMFF.

-JPM

*

Jon,

Are you dead? Things are going south here, and fast. The Newbie I told you about? Yesterday his pod was locked for ten minutes past clock-in, and so they locked it from the outside. It’s still locked. He’s screaming and pounding on the pod, and no one is allowed to do a thing for fear of cuts. I went back to your Birth House. Your Controllers keep lying. They say it’s “fine,” that the System is giving you just what you need. Bullshit, Jon! Whatever it is they’re doing to yo – Jon, the Newbie’s screaming again. Things are going to hell, here. I can feel the riots about to happen. Just get back, Jon.

Schneider

*

Schneider,

Treatment not good. Treatment not even “somewhat good.” Treatment worse than “small piece of shit.” Have had realization about future of System. Yesterday was in my room scratching “code” into walls (now I know they know!). I heard doctor’s approach. Thought “is it for me? Perhaps new treatment, perhaps this time a treatment for greatness and not for ‘productivity module?’ Perhaps this final moment of glory? NO!!!” Doctors whispered “Lexitrine…”(the code!) and something about the “System.” Now I know treatment not for greatness. Starting to think that maybe I was once even “somewhat genius,” but am now not even “somewhat genius” because treatment made me complete “non-genius?” If so – despair! Must get to you, best friend, for if you remember code and still have not left factory, perhaps you are still “somewhat genius” and can escape so as never to have to become a “non-genius” filled with productivity modules and equalizers and all other things undesirable (even more so than the undesirable skinning at the factory – yes, I do mean it!). Must escape.

LCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFF.

-JPM

*

Schneider,

Working hard to keep “mental notes” now more than ever (for perhaps now, at my most “non-genius” I have chance to do one last thing greatness, perhaps a thing that is even able to be called “somewhat genius?”). Was injected yesterday again. This one hurt. Doctors became not so happy (faces like those damned Controllers – ha ha!) when injecting due to my moving to shift from slight muscle cramp in left buttocks. As a result, injection needle left a slight scratch on right arm. NOW I HAVE PLAN (not just a plan, but the plan – a plan now much better than the initial plan of treatment – treatment that was supposed to make me feel great, but now makes me feel only slightly overcome with exhaustion and fog so that I cannot think of anything clearly!). Perhaps the scratch was some sort of sign, a sign from the “universe” that is saying “get out – get out now!” (i.e. escape – yes, escape!). But how to escape (i.e. question that, of course, I know the answer to – and all because of that one damned scratch – ha ha maybe things really do just happen!). The whole time I’ve received this treatment, not heard a single word from you, best friend, and yet now (of all times, yes, now!) it seems that I need to contact you the most (even more so than when I thought, being a “somewhat genius” I was on my way to “genius” when really I was on the way to terrifying treatment making me “non-genius”?). So, yes, the plan it is!

-JPM

*

Jon,

I went back to your Birth House. Your Controllers relayed me your message. At least I know you’re alive, Jon, but what the hell? Of any message you could choose to relay (even through them!) you choose advice about my working block? Seriously, what the hell does “clean through and through” even mean? Something’s the matter, I can tell, but I can’t figure out what it is. Is it something to do with the factory? Have they poisoned you or are you just working for them now? Is this some sort of sick attempt to see if I’m an enemy of the System? If so, count me out, Jon, because this shit has gone way too far. I’ve missed clock-in twice now at the factory, and I am no closer to finding out what’s going on with you. Your sleeping pod reeks now. You’d think they’d want to salvage the Newbie, but no, they’ve just left him there, rotting, as an example to the workers. I guarantee to quiet the rioters down. I gag every time I walk past. Shit’s out of control here, Jon. They’re about to give us the new drug, and I’m honestly starting to think you’ve turned.

Schneider

*

Schneider,

I must carry out the plan. Been weighing the possibilities. On the shiny side of the coin (ironic! That I don’t actually have a coin – ha ha!), plan maybe works out perfect (i.e. you are safe from the treatment!) and System fails (i.e. everyone safe?)? On other side, plan fails i.e. everyone gets treatment, including you, best friend, and then System becomes working mechanism with many “robots” (i.e. people) and basically sacrifices “robots” (i.e. you and potentially all others in factory?) to make more and more material? THE PLAN MUST WORK. I hear them – I am taking a “cautious” measure – LCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFFLCIMFF.

-Jonathan Patrick McPherson

*

Schneider,

PLAN IS MOVING (it really is!). Am now thinking that if plan works, then maybe can move toward factory, toward best friend, toward (freedom?). Perhaps this is moment of “somewhat genius” that will work because of element of surprise (surprise that reminds you of our “code” and how I said (a long time ago, ages as they say ha ha!) that I would return after being made “genius” by new and improved treatment that actually turned out to be very “non-genius?”)? Like I said, PLAN IS MOVING.

LCIMFF.LCIMFF.LCIMFF.LCIMFF.LCIMFF.LCIMFF.LCIMFF.LCIMFF.LCIMFF.LCIMFF.

-Jonathan Patrick McPherson

*

“All workers report to their stations immediately. Sleeping pods open.” I opened my eyes to the dim sleeping pod, my mind adjusting to the day’s requirements. Today was cleaning duty, which meant my suit would be considerably cleaner than most people’s, which meant I probably wouldn’t have to spray it down at the end of the working block. That meant an extra 20 minutes of sleep time. A good sign. I lifted the latch on my sleeping pod, gagging at the scent of the neighboring pod. When the hell are they going to clean that thing? “All workers report to their stations immediately. Sleeping pods open.” My suit was stiff. It always was in the morning, but this time it was particularly uncomfortable, caked with dried sanitizer from spray-down the day before. My elbows scraped against the hard edges of my arm sleeves. “All workers rep-” I entered the working block. It was quiet, the belts hadn’t started. I was on time. Another good sign. My first thought as I stood at my work station was of Jon. Why hadn’t I heard from him? I had expected another message in the last couple of days, but nothing had even been shared through his Controllers. They’d lied, I knew, about most of the things they said about Jon, but they hadn’t even reported hearing from him since last week. “Prepare for initiation.” The gears underneath my section of the belt began to turn, signaling a new day of work in the dome as the red glow of the sun barely lit the outer shell. I grabbed my brush, coating it with a thick layer of hardening gloss – it was thick in the mornings, sometimes so thick it required stirring. I hate this job. As the first bodies came through, I brushed them furiously, coating the face, the chest, the legs, and then the arms. A few stations down, two great claws would grab the body, turning it over to expose the back and buttocks to the hardening gloss. I brushed the blank faces of the victims of the System. I hated their expressions, their empty eyes and half-open mouths. Every two bodies, there was a small gap so workers could recoat their brushes. I reached down to re-coat my brush before looking up at the new line of material coming down the line. I froze. It was Jon? It looked like Jon. His feet were wide, his toes slightly spread from standing so many hours at the factory. His face was the same, minus the ridiculous smile he always wore, and underneath his closed eyes were tremendous, purpling bags, like he hadn’t slept in days. Holy hell, what had they done to him? The belt never stopped moving. Partly out of fear, partly out of acknowledgement, and partly out of friendship, I began cleaning. His skin felt like it was going to break under the thick bristles of my brush. What the hell? I brushed his legs, painting them in a glossy ooze. Then up to his chest. Once I got to his face, I hesitated. I shuddered, thinking of Jon’s skin being used for new material. I moved to his arms, coating the biceps and forearms before moving up the underarm. I froze again. Holy shit. Holy shit. I looked up, feeling like all the eyes in the factory were on me. The belt was still moving, and at this point I was definitely behind count. It wouldn’t be long before a Facilitator was chirping behind me, threatening lithium if I wouldn’t move faster. I bent close to Jon, now, clarifying what was actually engraved in his skin. My timer began to beep. I could almost hear the Facilitator moving closer.

It was deep enough to still be red. An oozing scab traced out the letters.

G E T   O U T.

***

 

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